The Cinema Museum.
Back in July, I reported on the situation around Musei Kino and Naum Kleiman. It seemed at that point that the whole project of restoring risked sinking. A few days ago this situation seems to have move in a slightly more positive direction. At least, a steering committee, a real building and some hope that quicker progress will be made than has been true in the past decade. The Cinema Scientific Research Institute (NII) is said to be the new home of the Cinema Museum for the first five years while a new building will be built for it. Naum Kleiman will be the President of the Museum although there will be someone else taking care of more practocal tasks. The steering committe of around 20 people will include directors such as Karen Shakhnazariv, Alexei German Jr, Vitaly Mansky, Stanislav Govorukhin, Renata Litvinova and film scholars such as Kirill Razlogov. Good news? Maybe, but anyone who remembers the destruction of the Musei Kino in the early years of this decades will remain sceptical to the end. As they say in Rome fidarsi e' bene, non fidarsi e' meglio (It's good to trust but better not to).
The World Premiere of the late Alexei Germana's Hard to be a God.
This, of course, is the event of the year for enthusiasts of Russian film. Apart from Deborah Young's article in the Hollywood Reporter , assured that this film will only be shown at the special events of festivals like Rome's (maybe true owing the plain stupidity of cinema programming these days), she complains about its frustrating incomprehensibility and that it would have been cutting edge in the 1980s but now longer feels so avant garde. The film was shown in April (but not in its final version and an account by Ksenia Chudinova for Snob magazine suggested that the reaction was non too positive. Some of her review was translated thus in a blog for Russian Science Fiction:
Meanwhile, on screen an ambitious and primarily physiological bacchanal unwound: close-ups of mud, animal and human excrement, blood, guts, a donkey’s penis, a woman’s vagina, crumpled clothing, horses, dirty fingernails, animal corpses. The characters are constantly defecating, spitting, scratching themselves, beating each other, cutting stomachs and throats, copulating or killing each other. Without speaking’.
From April to November things have changed and most of the press in Italy and Russia have given wildly positive readings. The first review was, of course, written by Umberto Eco before the premiere. His small essay was printed in Novaya Gazeta and an admittedly rather poor English translation has appeared here. In a fine piece for the Calvert Journal, Andrei Kartashov states that Hard to be a Good goes further in the complexity of his earlier Khrustalev, My car!:
It would seem impossible to exceed Khrustalyov’s visual and aural complexity, but Hard to Be a God does just that, proving that 15 years in production weren’t spent in vain (the inordinate length of production time stems partly from financial difficulties, but the director’s perfectionism also played a role). Having achieved ultimate sophistication in resurrecting a world of memory, German took on the task of creating his own universe from scratch.
Other Russian Films at Rome.
A New Pussy Riot Film showing at IDFA in Amsterdam.
The Amsterdam documentary film festival IDFA is showing two films one of which is the Pussy versus Putin filmed from inside the Pussy Riot story (rather than the more 'objective' film by Michael Lerner and Maksim Pozdorovkin). The Gogol Wives group are an anonymous collective and there is, as yet, little hope of any public showing of this film in Russia so far.
An Independent article has some information on this and the other film showing at Amsterdam.
Other news and things to look out for are the Art Doc Fest (Moscow's main documentary film festival starting in less than a weeks time), a retrospective of Elem Klimov and Larisa Shepitko's films also shown in Moscow in the same period. That's not mentioning the popular end of Russian film: Fyodor Bondarchuk's Stalingrad as well as Veledinsky's winner at Kinotavr The Geographer Drunk the Globe away. The comedy Gorko! and a horror film Shopping Tour by Mikhail Brashinsky should also be covered.
The long-standing uncertainty about Russia's only LGBT film festival was eventually settled in the festivals favour. One will have to see how the festival goes (homophobes are unlikely to completely let it go on in total peace). The main news reported is that Gus von Sant will be attending to show his support. The festival will feature among other films Diederk Ebbinger's Matterhorn which was shown at the Moscow International Film Festival in late June and Xavier Dolan's Tom at the Farm (which was shown at the Zavtra/2morrow festival more recently).